Friday, March 22, 2013

Race report – Tarawera Ultra 100km solo - Race report - Even splits my arse!

making sure it's all going to be allright

I got to the Humphries bay aid station thinking about a spreadsheet that was doing the runs on facebook with split times for each aid station. The spreadsheet was calculated on even splits, which I thought was weird given that there was a decent amount of climbing to be negotiated. I still naively adopted it in the hope that it will make me faster.

How did I get to the Outlet thinking that? here’s the story

I signed the Tarawera Ultra by Christmas, which was about 14 weeks out. Since my sporting interests are many, the proper race training wouldn’t kick in until I got the Auckland 70.3 triathlon out of the way which was right after  3 weeks holidays tramping in the South Island. I made an attempt to do the Hillary trail with the Huia bush runners in early Jan, but had to give up at 30km to save the knee for later races.

So… by late January I was ready to dive into the lore of running. The preparation included lots of running at some speed in net downhills, to prepare the quads for the 40km dash from Tarawera Falls to Kawerau. It also included new nutrition strategies which involved ordinary food (burritos, ham and cheese croissants and my very own chia bars) both the speed running and the nutrition worked great in training.

happy trails
Came race day we had to adapt to the fire course, so I thought I’d use some speed to start out relatively fast and enjoy ‘clear track’ between the start and Okareka. Paul sent us off in style, and a bit of a drizzle. Surprisingly, though, the track was dusty from the speedsters up the road and I coughed my way out of the first couple of k’s. Keeping the gas on but the ticker at low bpm’s I reached the Blue Lake aid station 10min ahead of schedule my chia bars proved a great success for nourishing me through the first leg. That was part of the plan, now it was time to slow down a bit and get to Okareka within the 1:45 mark. There was chocolate milk and croissants waiting.
Okareka was a flash, so much of a flash that I forgot to drink my Milo. Got the pack on my back, loaded with chia bars and burritos for the road ahead. The idea was to get through the savory stuff before mid-race and then switch to sweeter stuff from aid stations. I didn’t count on the 3km uphill to Millar Rd aid station, whatever I ate at Okareka was now trying to come out to daylight. It all got better at Millar and a nice group formed. I made a point to stay with this group, as they were pacing to get to Okataina in a similar time as me, somewhere in the 2 hour mark. The group was the lead 60km woman and a Darren, a guy I knew was much faster than me in the only other trail race I did. We chatted a little during this leg, Darren tipping Steph about the steep descend from the western Okataina track into the lodge and aid station. She flew down the last 5km and I decided to take the foot off the pedal and not to race wildly to the aid station, used the time to get half a square mea.l down the trhoat. Got there in 2:03 wich was OK but not great.

Nat being briefed about the race ahed
My wife, love of my life and the greatest crew ever was arriving to the aid station as I stepped out of the bush. I did get my chocolate milk and ½ burrito and  was off. I struggled a bit in the technical trail with unsettled stomach, and lost the plot for a few km, which should had been run faster. That was the first turning point of the race. I realized that I could not continue to slow down to digest the food that Nat and I put so much love and attention to prepare. I cogitated about what to do for a couple of km and it became overly clear that I could run the next 6 hours the same way I did the Auckland 70.3 race: Gels, sweets and coke and electrolytes to stabilize. I started with oranges and apples at Humphries. I also realised that the splits were getting waaaaaaay our of the plan, and not in a positive way. That’s when I though “even splits my arse” I was not letting a spreadsheet get in the way of my good mood and the finish line.

When I got to the Outlet aid station I was already in a different mood. Not only have I passed the halfway point in a relatively good time. I was already much lighter, clear in my mind and sure that I’d get to the end even if I had to walk. What is more, I was hanging on relatively comfortable to a guy that I knew was much more experienced than me. This leg was 2:08, a good 15 minutes over the planned time.

The next leg was for me to run free. I left my pack at the aid station, ate a few pieces of nectarines and left for the trails. This is where I would start counting the pros coming my way. Sage went in and out in a flash. Tim followed a good 12 min behind and Vajin was running happy 20min from Sage. All of them cheered us back, which was uplifting. The turnaround at the Tarawera falls was another milestone. My plan was to start with coke from 60k, and what a difference that sweet shit makes!.  I was back to Okataina in 2:18, again, a few more minutes than originally planned. But it was quite clear at this stage that not only my planning had been optimistic, but everyone was going slower than usual. The pit stop at Okataina was very long, I realize in hindsight that I was losing a bit of concentration and should plan better for those moments. Left the aid station as fast as I could, knowing that a- I was 14th overall and b- It was a matter of 2 hours to get to the finish. I also knew that the steep downhill of this morning was now a bitch of a hill to get through and that I would have to walk it as fast as I could.
Finishing in style
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but once it was over, there’s a net downhill to the finish and a 3km downhill on the road to the aid station. I was doing the same kind of pace in the last 3km as I did on the first 3km. Nat ran the last 600m with me, and we crossed the line just below 11:50. Not the grandiose sub-11 I had planned for, but still within my top 15% target (just)

A few days later the itchy question of what would have been the story on the faster course is stuck in the back of my mind. Can't wait for next time.